Clapping out the syllables can be fun and educational.

How to Explain What a Syllable Is to a Child

by Kathryn Hatter

Pre-readers have many skills and concepts to master as they begin the course of learning to read. Even something as simple as syllables can be challenging, yet oh-so-important for little ones to master. Give your child a head start to reading by explaining the ins and outs of syllables. Who knows? Jiving to the syllable handclaps might start a new learning activity that everyone enjoys doing together.

Talk about words having parts that you can hear with your ears, to give the simplest of overviews about syllables to your kid. It isn't necessary to get too carried away with the technicalities of syllables.

Talk about hearing syllables in words and then clapping the parts with your hands. By clapping the syllables, little ones can hear, feel and count them more effectively.

Clap syllables for names of family members to help her get the hang of noticing and counting syllables. You might say, "Let's clap your name! Ra-chel, one, two!" As you say the name, clap your hands once with each syllable. Say, "Let's clap my name, now. Mom-my, one, two!" Again, clap your hands with each syllable.

Demonstrate clapping syllables with a variety of words with different syllable numbers to show your kid that words have different numbers of syllables. Find one-syllable, two-syllable and three-syllable words to teach the concept. For example, you might say and clap "dog," "pic-nic" and "oc-to-pus" to show different syllables. Use words your kid knows to keep the syllable lessons relevant.


  • Once you start raising awareness of syllables, make it a fun game to clap syllables of words throughout the day. By practicing and clapping syllables of random words, your little one will catch on quickly.
  • Make the clapping activity an enjoyable game so your child will want to clap syllables. Smile, laugh and bop to the syllable clapping game.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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